The MTV VMAs returned to Brooklyn on Sunday night, with performances by some of the biggest stars as well as callbacks to MTV’s 40th anniversary and early days.
In a blending of the old and the new, Madonna, the queen of early MTV, made a surprise appearance during the opening performance. She was followed by Justin Bieber and The Kid LAORI, performing their viral hit “Stay” and then another performance by Oliva Rodrigo. In a voiceover, Madonna recalled arriving in New York City and telling a cab driver to take her to the “center of it all,” and being taken to Times Square with “$35 and a pair of dance shoes.”
“And they said we wouldn’t last, but we’re still here motherf***ers,” she said.
Then came the first award of the night: 18-year-old Rodrigo took home the Song of the Year award for “Drivers License.”
“This whole year has been so magical,” Rodrigo said when accepting her Moon Person statue.
Cyndi Lauper, who reminded the crowd that she won a Moon Person at the very first VMAs, made an appearance and said “girls still want to have fun, but we also want to have funds, equal pay and control over our bodies — you know, fundamental rights.”
Bieber, who led the nominations coming into the night, took home an early award for Best Pop Song for his track “Peaches.” Bieber’s performance marked his first time on the VMA stage since 2015, after which he took an extended break from music.
Other performers include Alicia Keys and Swae Lee, Camila Cabello, Chlöe, Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, Kacey Musgraves, Ozuna, Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow, Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker, Normani, Shawn Mendes and Tainy, Twenty One Pilots and Doja Cat. There will also be a special performance by Anitta.
In addition to MTV, the show will be simulcast across BET, BET Her, CMT, Comedy Central, Logo, MTV2, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, Pop, TV Land, VH1 and The CW.
MTV will be awarding the U.S. Global Icon Award to Foo Fighters. According to MTV, the award “celebrates an artist/band whose unparalleled career and continued impact and influence has maintained a unique level of global success in music and beyond.”